When the Crocodile Cafe closed suddenly early this week, the blogosphere filled with hundreds of odes to the Croc. And a huge percentage of the tributes contained shout-outs to "Jim the sound guy."
When the Crocodile Cafe closed suddenly early this week, the blogosphere filled with hundreds of odes to the Croc. And a huge percentage of the tributes contained shout-outs to “Jim the sound guy.”
They meant Jim Anderson, the Croc’s superstar sound engineer. Anderson ran sound there for 16 ½ years. From the very first sound check with the Posies — who opened for Love Battery at the Croc’s inaugural show in May 1991 — to the club’s unanticipated swan song Saturday when Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes), J. Tillman and Dave Bazan (Pedro the Lion) performed.
From personal experience (full disclosure: I’m a member of the Lights, a band that has been mixed and recorded live many times by Anderson), I can tell you that on any given night, a sound man can be a band’s savior or its worst enemy.
Anderson was the savior variety, helping to craft the Crocodile into the best-sounding club in Seattle (and investing his own money into the sound system to do so).
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“I realized a long time ago it’s a service industry,” Anderson said this week. “I am providing a service for the clubs, bands and audience. If I make the club happy and the band happy, then the show comes off as it’s supposed to.”
Anderson and the sound he created at the Croc were legendary. “The reason the sound is so good there,” said Dan Beloit, guitarist/vocalist for the Valley, “is his ear, and the sound system that he built is true to that room.”
Bands longed to work with him. Anderson’s calm demeanor and willingness to work hard for every single band — famous national group on tour, or local up-and-comers — endeared him to the musicians.
“I might not recognize you in a crowd, but if you got on stage I would remember exactly what I was doing last time I mixed your band,” Anderson said.
“Working with sound people can be a nightmare,” said Erik Blood, producer and member of the local band the Turn-ons. “But Jim puts up with all our ridiculous requests.”
I was part of a case in point: a June 2006 show with Kinski, the Lights, Unnatural Helpers and Welcome — with the four bands performing separately and, at times, all at once. Anderson’s response when told he’d be doing sound for two drummers, five guitarists, four bassists and two vocalists all at the same time?
A nonplussed, “Sure thing.”
“I consider it a unique achievement for me,” he said of that concert. “It came out to be 25 channels … right up there with the most gear and performers I’d ever had [on stage],” Anderson said.
Anderson estimates he’s done sound for nearly 15,000 different acts — and you’d be hard-pressed to find a disgruntled band among any of them.
“Production is supposed to be invisible. … The only time they would notice is when something [goes wrong],” Anderson said.
“To know that there are that many people who really did pay attention to what I do is really gratifying. Especially knowing it’s the bands.”
Musician Jeff Albertson works for The Seattle Times Features staff: